Quick Snippets of Culture

Christie’s Art

Christie’s Art

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It was in 1762 that James Christie established himself, and successive members of his family, as an auctioneer in Pall Mall at London. By the time this portrait was painted in 1778 he had moved to commercial premises adjacent to the painter Thomas Gainsborough’s residence where this portrait was rendered…

An Eye for Art

An Eye for Art

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The Regency era (1792 – 1830) in England saw the rise of the first professional art critics who were wealthy connoisseurs or collectors like Richard Payne Knight (fine eye for erotica) and journalists like William Hazlitt. Trained as a painter Hazlitt had first hand knowledge of the technical and aesthetic…

State of Nature

State of Nature

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Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) French political philosopher, educationist and author, drew an equation between the informality of British dress, the virtues and simplicity of country life and the liberty of the British constitution. He hoped to change the traditional attitude of French aristocrats by having them embrace a ‘State of…

Blake’s Mystical Vision

Blake’s Mystical Vision

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William Blake (1757-1827) expressed an ardent belief in the freedom of the imagination through his poetry and striking symbolic paintings. He rejected traditional composition and his ideas of perspective evoked an enigmatic otherworldliness. His poems reflect a uniquely personal mystical vision one in which imagination and reality become one. He…

Gainsborough’s Lyrical Style

Gainsborough’s Lyrical Style

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English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) endowed history with lyric faces, knowing precisely the style of elegance his sitters required. His technique was vivid, spontaneous and his use of colour passionate. He always talked of colour in musical terms; harmonies, rhythms and so forth. His beautiful likeness of the Hon Mrs…

Prejudice and Pride

Prejudice and Pride

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That the first two Hanoverian Georges disliked England was neither here nor there. George 1 calmed Hanoverian fears of the English chopping off his head by saying ‘I have nothing to fear – for the king killers are all my friends’. When George II succeeded in 1727 visiting Swiss Protestant,…

Sensibility and Sense

Sensibility and Sense

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The Georgian era in England began on horseback and ended in a railway carriage. As to the countryside, where the vast majority of England’s nearly six million people lived, it was mainly vast fields, sprawling common waste, wonderful woodland with bogs and moors being very treacherous places. Much of the…

Bentwood Classic

Bentwood Classic

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The decorative arts magazine The Studio was devoured in the coffee house culture of Vienna’s cafes at the turn of the 20th century with English fashion, sport and food debated endlessly. The attractiveness of handicraft items issuing from Vienna was demonstrated at the World Exposition in Paris of 1900. Michael…

Fitting Form to Function

Fitting Form to Function

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Charles Edward Jeanneret changed his name to Le Corbusier. As a modernist, he was primarily concerned with the least complex method of fitting form to function. His radical plans included replacing the historic centre of Paris with eighteen gigantic skyscrapers. Thankfully in this he failed. His books published between 1923…

Contemporary Art & Design

Contemporary Art & Design

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The characteristics that define contemporary art are evident in every age: confidence in execution, structure, form and style. A dispute known as the “Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns,” dominated the intellectual life of Europe between 1683 and 1719. The crux was whether the Moderns (those living at the time)…

Youthful Style

Youthful Style

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During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the economic and social forces, which underpinned Victorian stability, were shattered, Britain’s manufacturing power was threatened at home by industrial unrest and internationally by America, Germany and Japan. Growing feminist and socialist movements characterize this period as one of protracted crisis. The…

Liberated Living

Liberated Living

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Austrian architect Josef Hoffman (1870 – 1956) was a rare individual, who could design in many mediums. He created a sense of ‘liberated living’ when he completed the Palais Stoclet at Brussels between 1905-11.  It has been described as a ‘flawless masterpiece of a thousand years of architectural history’. Harmony…

Choir by Della Robbia

Hallelujah Chorus: Surprise & Elation at Macy’s, New York

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How clever of the Opera Company of Philadelphia to infiltrate the shoppers at Macy’s in New York and sing the Hallelujah Chorus as a surprise, lighting a spark